Everytown v. ATF: Advocating for Access to Federal Trace Data for Gun Violence Research
Case Information: Everytown v. ATF, No. 19-3438 (2nd Cir. brief filed June 2, 2020).
At Issue: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) collects information on firearms recovered in criminal investigations, known as “trace data.” In 2003 Congress passed an amendment known as the Tiahrt Rider which limited ATF’s ability to release trace data, which had previously been accessible to researchers and the public. However, in 2009, Congress passed the OPEN FOIA act, which required statutes creating categories of data intended to be exempt from Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to include specific language. The most recent enactments of the Tiahrt Rider do not include this language, yet ATF still claims that trace data is exempt from disclosure under FOIA. Everytown sued ATF for its failure to produce trace data after a FOIA request, and a federal district court agreed that Everytown is entitled to this data and ordered ATF to produce it. The case is now on appeal before the Second Circuit.
Giffords Law Center’s Brief: We partnered with Brady to write an amicus brief in support of Everytown’s request for trace data. Our brief argues that ATF is required to release the requested information under the OPEN FOIA Act, and furthermore, that information contained in ATF tracing database is critical to the study of gun trafficking and to the development of successful supply-side strategies to prevent gun crime. Our brief provides several examples of how research using trace data has provided useful information to policymakers and law enforcement. We further argue that ATF’s withholding of trace data since 2003 has impeded research into illegal gun markets and supply-side strategies to combat gun violence.